Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Independence Day in 1922

Front Page image from The Youngstown Vindicator, July 3, 1922 via Google News Archive

In some ways, the Fourth of July in Youngstown was not so different in 1922 from what I remember growing up. Many who could left the city to go to Lake Milton for the day. Others took their chances swimming at Lake Glacier, which had been closed until the Fourth for pollution concerns after heavy rains. Everyone had family picnics. The mills and most businesses were closed. Crowds descended on Idora Park, staying for the big fireworks display that evening.

The city itself had no formal celebrations. Perhaps that is just as well because city officials were not in a celebrating mood. Downtown grocer and upstart mayor George Oles clashed repeatedly with city council and everyone else in his reform efforts and tendered his resignation July 1 at noon. Then a rally of citizens at Central Square and a deputation of citizens at his home persuaded him to ask for his resignation back. George Reese had already been sworn in as mayor and council refused. The eve of Independence Day was full of wrangling between Oles and the city. The political fireworks may have rivaled those at Idora Park!

President Harding in Marion

In other news from July 3 (there is no paper for the 4th), President Warren G. Harding was passing through Ohio, returning to his home in Marion for 4th of July celebrations, along with General “Blackjack” Pershing, who led U.S. forces in the first World War, or as it was then known, the Great War. [Our son lives in Marion and we’ve seen the Harding home pictured here and the Harding Memorial.]

The paper also covers the four open air “union” services held by Protestant churches, one on each side of town. Over 2,000 attended, with patriotic themes and messages. On Sunday, a campaign was also launched at Villa Maria, just over the state line in Pennsylvania, to raise $150,000 for the Villa Maria Convent. It is now the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center and home of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. 

The editorial cartoon reflects the growth of automobile travel and might be as true one hundred years later. The title reads “To the Country Is No Longer Any Place to Go For a Quiet Fourth.” The drawing shows traffic jams, a crowded picnic area where multitudes are shooting off fireworks, one mother bandaging a crying child’s hand and a poor fellow covering his ears as he cowers behind a tree. All that is missing is the gunfire, celebratory or otherwise. Meanwhile, the inset reads “Absolutely deserted” with a fellow contentedly enjoying a good book in his hammock on the porch. That’s the 4th of July for me!

In entertainment, the big story was the double feature at the Dome, with Richard Barthelmess playing the title role in “Sonny” while Buster Keaton starred in “My Wife’s Relations.” Meanwhile, the Hippodrome Players were performing “The Tailor Made Man,” a Cohan and Harris comedy.

The big sporting news was the 12 round boxing match, also to be held at Idora Park between Soldier Bartfield, “one of the toughest birds in the welter division” and hometown favorite, Jimmy Jones. As you can see, you could have quite a day at Idora–rides, midway, picnics, boxing matches, and fireworks!

Of course, stores featured after the Fourth sales. Strouss-Hirshberg’s had a basement sale and a store I never heard of before, The France-Devin Company at 27 West Federal Street, was having its “Final Clean-up of All Spring and Summer Apparel.

Much has change in 100 years. But picnics, family gatherings, a trip to the lake or a pool, and fireworks still are a great recipe for the day as we celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday! Thanks for the stroll down a historical memory lane and have a happy and safe Fourth!

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

The Month in Reviews: June 2022

One of the delights of this month was to read books for children, for younger readers or that could be read together as a family. I was getting ready for a conference trip, and so some lighter and shorter books were a welcome change of pace. But they were no less rich for that. I also finished the last (at present) Gamache book by Louise Penny, whose books were a great diversion through the last years. I also wrote a post with summaries and links to all my reviews. A few other highlights in this long list were Wil Haygood’s Showdown, describing the courageous life of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Roger Angell’s death in May spurred me to read one of his classics, The Summer Game. Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is a classic that is still in print. I think it worth a read, perhaps start it on July 4, to understand the ideas behind our origins.

My Body is Not a Prayer RequestAmy Kenny. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. A description of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and verbal barriers disabled people face generally, and especially in their encounter with churches and what can be done to make them welcoming and inclusive places to the disabled. Review

Dead Water (Roderick Alleyn #23), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2015 (originally published in 1963). A spring on an island celebrated for its healing powers becomes the site of the murder. Review

Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed AmericaWil Haygood. New York: Vintage Books, 2016. An account of the life of and rise to the Supreme Court of Thurgood Marshall structured around the five days of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Review

The Glory of God and Paul (New Studies in Biblical Theology #58), Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Downers Grove and London: IVP Academic and Apollos, 2022. (Link to UK publisher). A study of the theme of the glory of God in scripture, with a particular focus on the writings of Paul. Review

Racing the StormDavid J. Claassen. Middletown, DE: CreateSpace, 2021. The tight community in a trailer park face the oncoming storm of the sale of their park with no place to move their trailers. Review

The Medieval Mind of C. S. LewisJason M. Baxter. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. An exploration of the great medieval writers whose works helped shape the mind and the works of C. S. Lewis. Review

Confessions of a French AtheistGuillaume Bignon. Carol Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2022. The story of a software engineer, volleyball player, and musician who thought he had it all until his encounter with a fashion model who was a Christian. Review

The Ministry of FearGraham Greene. New York: Open Road Media, 2018 (first published in 1943). Just released from a psychiatric hospital for the mercy killing of his wife, Arthur Rowe inadvertently gets caught up in a twisty espionage plot. Review

The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Gamache #17), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2021. A Christmas assignment to provide security for a professor proposing mercy killing leads to a murder investigation in Three Pines. Review

To Open The SkyRobert Silverberg. New York: Open Road Media, 2014 (first published in 1967). Noel Vorst’s new religion sweeps the Earth with its promise of eternal life, but Vorst’s plans extend far beyond Earth or even the near planets to the stars. Review

From Plato to ChristLouis Markos. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A discussion of the most significant ideas of Plato, summarizing his works and the influence Platonic thought has had on Christian theology. Review

Reprobation and God’s SovereigntyPeter Sammons. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022. A carefully and biblically argued defense of the doctrine of reprobation, dealing with a number of misunderstandings of this doctrine. Review

Land of WomenMaria Sánchez (Translated by Curtis Bauer). San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2022. A rural field veterinarian in Spain gives voice to the lives of rural women and the places they inhabit. Review

The Last MapmakerChristina Soontornvat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2022. Sai, a girl from the Fens, daughter of a conman, manages to find a place with the last mapmaker of Mangkon just as he is enlisted on a voyage of discovery with great possible rewards, risks, and Slakes! Review

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, Katy Bowser Hutson, Flo Paris Oakes, and Tish Harrison Warren, illustrated by Liita Forsyth. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022. Twenty-eight prayers, with illustrations, written for children covering the events of the day from getting up to going to bed and all the ordinary and not-so-ordinary things that can happen in a day. Review

Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy SpiritEsau McCaulley, Illustrated by LaTonya Jackson. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022. Pentecost Sunday means a trip with dad to Monique’s salon to get Josey’s hair braided, a new red dress, and questions about why her hair is so different from other children’s. Review

The Summer GameRoger Angell. New York: Open Road Media, 2013 (originally published in 1972). A collection of Angell’s essays covering the ten seasons of Major League Baseball from 1962 to 1971. Review

The Year of Our Lord 1943Alan Jacobs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Drawing upon the work of five Christian intellectuals who were contemporaries, explores the common case they made for a Christian humanistic influence in education in the post-war world. Review

The Ideological Origins of the American RevolutionBernard Bailyn. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967 (publisher’s link is to 2017 Fiftieth Anniversary Edition). A study of the ideas conveyed through pamphlets that led to the revolution of the colonies against England. Review

Book of the Month: Once again, I give the nod to a Louise Penny book. This one wasn’t a diversion, exploring an idea mooted during the pandemic, the mercy killing of the elderly. It explores how the right voice can play on the fears and anxieties of our age. Of course it also involves a twisty murder plot and the inner struggles of both Gamache and Beauvoir.

Quote of the Month: This one was striking in summarizing the premise of Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, for the compelling way it conveys a beautiful truth in simple words:

“God always listens. God always loves you.

You can tell God anything.”

What I’m Reading. Seems I’m always reading a Ngaio Marsh mystery. She wrote over 30 of them. This one is Death in a White Tie and is set in the arduous “coming out” seasons in high society of the day. I’ve been working through Discovering Biblical Equality, an extended collection of essay supporting the equality of women in the church, home, and society. Spirituality According to John considers all the books attributed to John, and what it means to abide in Christ. I picked up a free copy of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be. The circles I grew up in didn’t think highly of Tillich. In this work, Tillich confronts the “age of anxiety” we are in, our fear of “not being” (death), and how then should we live (“the courage to be”) in light of death. Finally, I’ve just begun Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris in the early 1920’s. It was unfinished at the time he took his life. This edition, edited by a family member, less heavily edited than the edition published shortly after his death. I have a number of books I hope to get to this summer, including my Father’s Day book, Vaclav Smil’s How the World Really Works.

Hope you have some relaxed summer days with a cool drink at hand and a stack of good books at hand!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014! It’s a great way to browse what I’ve reviewed. The search box on this blog also works well if you are looking for a review of a particular book.

Review: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967 (publisher’s link is to 2017 Fiftieth Anniversary Edition).

Summary: A study of the ideas conveyed through pamphlets that led to the revolution of the colonies against England.

The original edition of this work, published in 1967, won both Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes for Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn. What Bailyn does is to study the literature that preceded the revolution, much of it in pamphlets ranging from the more religiously based ones of Jonathan Mayhew to the more radical Thomas Paine. He identifies key themes that led to conflict and the Declaration of Independence.

Much of this was rooted in British pamphleteers including John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, who protested what they saw as corruption in which royal ministers usurped the power of parliament. It was framed as a conflict of power versus liberty. The colonists began to seem themselves caught up in this conspiracy of power versus liberty, exemplified when the British quartered troops in Boston. Indeed, this conspiracy thinking, mirrored by the British acquired a kind of inevitability that led ineluctably to conflict. In one of his most sobering passages for our present moment, Bailyn writes:

“But the eighteenth century was an age of ideology; the beliefs and fears expressed on one side of the Revolutionary controversy were as sincere as those expressed on the other. The result, anticipated by Burke as early as 1769, was an ‘escalation’ of distrust toward a disastrous deadlock: ‘The Americans,’ Burke said, ‘have made a discovery, or think they have made one, that we mean to oppress them: we have made a discovery, or think we have made one, that they intend to rise in rebellion against us. . . we know not how to advance; they know not how to retreat. . . Some party must give way.’ “

The colonists took this basic opposition of liberty to power and transformed it to fit their context. Their cry of “taxation without representation” was a protest against the purported virtual representation they received in Parliament, in which measures could be decided in which they had no voice. Likewise, they challenged the abstract constitution of sovereign and Parliament, contending for a written constitution that clearly set the boundaries of government. Finally, in a colonial situation far removed from Parliament, they challenged its absolute authority, especially in matters of “internal” versus “external” taxes.

Bailyn then concludes with showing how this “contagion of liberty” spread to concerns about slavery, religious liberty, and the shape of their government, the idea of a democratic republic–one with no sovereign. Bailyn discusses the early deliberations including the fears that democracy could easily degenerate into anarchy, the developments of the ideas of bicameral legislatures, an executive, and of independent courts–designed to protect against both autocrats and anarchy.

Bailyn helps us understand not only the ideas that led to revolution but that led to how we constituted the United States, and the concern to uphold liberty against both absolute power and absolute disorder. It seems to me that what the early thinkers failed to anticipate was the partisan abyss that has developed that exacerbates the inefficiencies of a democratic republic resulting in a descent into disorder matched by the appeal of an authoritarian government that works. Ben Franklin, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention was asked, “What kind of government have you given us?” Franklin replied, “A democracy, if you can keep it.” The question of our day seems to be “will we keep it?” Bailyn’s book can’t answer that for us, but it does trace the ideological heritage that led to the inception of our democratic republic.

Review: The Year of Our Lord 1943

The Year of Our Lord 1943, Alan Jacobs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Summary: Drawing upon the work of five Christian intellectuals who were contemporaries, explores the common case they made for a Christian humanistic influence in education in the post-war world.

By 1943, it was becoming apparent that the Allies would eventually win the war. For the five Christian intellectuals in this book, the crisis had shifted from resistance to authoritarian regimes, living in the shadow of death, and how one persevered in intellectual work in war-time, to what ideas would shape the post-war world. The five intellectuals featured in this book, along with a cameo by Jacques Ellul in the Afterword, were known to one another but tended to operate in separate circles. They were: Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil.

The basic thread of this book was the common advocacy Alan Jacobs sees among these authors for a kind of Christian humanism that would shape education over and against the rising pragmatism and technocracy that prevailed in wartime. Jacob’s method is to follow these thinkers more or less chronologically, leading off with a particular thinker, and then turning to what others were saying, sometimes in response, but often independently.

Negatively, Maritain, Lewis and Weil particularly warned against technocracy. Maritain characterized it as demonic, and Lewis created the memorable N.I.C.E. in That Hideous Strength. Without the moral framework of Christian humanism, you had the “flat-chested” men of The Abolition of Man. Weil called for a society that began with the notion of obligations rather than rights. Eliot and Auden, the older and younger, contributed to a Christian poetics, a vision of vocation, and a vision of Christian culture.

These were formidable thinkers yet one wonders why in the end technocracy and pragmatism prevailed. Jacobs describes a wider circle that several of these participated in called Oldham’s Moot. A more extensive study of this group would be fascinating. Most of those involved were Christian and were concerned with rebuilding the Christian underpinnings of European culture. They met regularly, debated various schemes, but eventually lost energy, especially after the death of German sociologist Karl Mannheim, a Hungarian Jew who was both odd man out and set the intellectual tone.

They illustrate a challenge that faced the five principals of this book as well–translating these ideas into the warp and woof of society–its political, educational, industrial, and civic institutions. Perhaps that is always beyond the capacity of such thinkers, except that they need to capture the attention and imagination of those working in these other realms who have some influence and the creativity to translate these ideas into policy and practice. One wonders if it was a lack of people outside their circles who shared their vision and worked entrepreneurially to foster it that consigned the vision of these thinkers to their books and publications.

Many think we are at another time of crisis, one that calls us first to prayer, and then to the communal work of thinking and refining and implementing anew. Jacobs shows us what these five were able to accomplish and educates a new generation to their work. Who will be the thinkers who engage in the retrieval and refinement of their work for our time? Who will be the actors who combine thought and action in creative ways? And will it be enough to check our slide into decadence and disorder in the year of our Lord 2022? These are the questions posed to me in this work.

Review: The Summer Game

The Summer Game, Roger Angell. New York: Open Road Media, 2013 (originally published in 1972).

Summary: A collection of Angell’s essays covering the ten seasons of Major League Baseball from 1962 to 1971.

This year we lost Roger Angell, the long time writer for The New Yorker, at the ripe old age of 101. He was a shaping force at the magazine as well as being considered by some, “The Poet Laureate of baseball.” I knew of Angell’s writing, but it was not until now that I discovered why he was so esteemed. Quite simply, he gave words to what any of us who love the game feel about its attraction. The final essay of this book, “The Interior Stadium” gets as close as anything I’ve read to describing the game’s mystique:

“Form is the imposition of a regular pattern upon varying and unpredictable circumstances, but the patterns of baseball, for all the game’s tautness and neatness, are never regular. Who can predict the winner and shape of today’s game? Will it be a brisk, neat two-hour shutout? A languid, error-filled 13-2 laugher, A riveting three hour, fourteen-inning deadlock? What other sport produces these manic swings?”

The Summer Game collects articles Angell wrote for The New Yorker from 1962 to 1971, which is quite wonderful because this was the time when I most avidly followed the name, reading The Sporting News and watching every World Series game I could (when I was not in school). He begins with spring training at the camp of the New York Mets, who were destined to become New York’s lovable losers until late in the decade, when they became champions. He describes games at the old Polo Grounds before Shea Stadium was built and the “Go” shouters.

He traces the championship teams of the sixties and especially the World Series matchups between them: the Yankees and the Dodgers, the Giants, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, the Twins, the Mets, the Reds, the Orioles, and the Pirates. There are all the stars I grew up with–Mays, Maris, and Mantle, Koufax and Gibson and the generation that followed, Yastrzemski, Rose and Perez, Clemente and Stargell.

As the players changed, so did the stadiums. Angell describes the demise of the old box-like stadiums with seats close to the game for the bigger stadiums in the round, used for multiple sports in many cases but with fans much more distant. It is ironic that most of these stadiums that were “new” when Angell wrote have since been demolished in favor of parks much more like the old fields with modern amenities. Even the shiny new Astrodome, although still preserved, no longer serves as a baseball venue.

The heart of the book is Angell’s accounts of the World Series games of each year. He brings back memories of the dominating performances of Koufax and Drysdale, and of Bob Gibson, who broke the hearts of Boston fans in his showdown with Jim Lonborg. Gibson, pitching his third game of the series was dead tired but hung on to win 7-2. Likewise, he reminds me of the hopes fulfilled when the Pirates in nearby Pittsburgh overcame the dominating Orioles of Earl Weaver to win the 1971 World Series. Some have criticized his inning by inning, sometimes play-by-play approach, but for me, it was a walk back in time, a reminder of great baseball of the past. He fills in the detail and drama of those games long tucked away in the recesses of memory.

He describes a game in transition as leagues expanded, playoffs were introduced and old stars faded as new names like Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, and Reggie Jackson came on the scene, as TV revenues grew and with them, salaries, and new stadiums. And yet, it is the same summer game, played on a diamond, between baselines, nine players in the lineup on each side, fans in the seats behind first or third, filling out scorecards, rooting for the home team, vicariously sharing in the glory of the game.

Thank you Roger Angell! One can only hope there will be baseball in heaven so that Roger Angell can write about it.

Review: Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit

Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit, Esau McCaulley, Illustrated by LaTonya Jackson. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022.

Summary: Pentecost Sunday means a trip with dad to Monique’s salon to get Josey’s hair braided, a new red dress, and questions about why her hair is so different from other children’s.

Josey Johnson is a beautiful black girl whose “hair has a mind of its own,” different from the straight hair other girls at school and in cartoons and videos have. It’s the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday and her dad is taking her to Monique’s salon to get her hair braided and then shopping for a red dress.

Being the exuberant girl she is, she is full of questions. “Why is her hair different?”, “Why is she different?”, “What is Pentecost?” and, when the tongues of fire came down “Were they burned?” What follows is a wonderful conversation between Josey and her father as Monique makes beautiful braids in Josey’s hair, celebrating the beautiful differences of all God’s creatures and of all human beings including Josey. And the different languages of Pentecost proclaim that the work of Jesus is for people of all languages, skin colors, and types of hair.

A look inside (from the publisher’s website)

There are so many delights in this children’s story. Theologian Esau McCaulley weaves into the narrative rich theology of humans as God’s image bearers and the wonder of Pentecost in the proclamation of Christ for the nations. Then there is the sheer delight of a father taking his daughter to get her hair styled, joining Monique, who has “the best voice in the city,” in song at one point, and going dress shopping with his daughter. LaTonya Jackson’s vibrant illustrations are a feast for the eyes. And the concluding Pentecost celebrations struck me as the way Pentecost ought to be celebrated!

Most of all, this is a story for every child who feels “different,” affirming the “unique work of art” each one is. And every Black child will find great joy in hearing that “your black hair, Black lips, and Black skin are God’s work of art!” I found myself smiling and feeling warm inside as I read this book–and I’m a sixty-something, gray, balding white guy. I need the message of this book as well–God loves difference and Pentecost is a sign of how much he loves that difference!

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Things I’ve Wondered About

As I’ve written about my hometown over the years, there are things I’ve wondered about. After eight years of writing about Youngstown, the city still holds mysteries for me. Here are a few:

  1. We had a Schenley Theater and street on the West Side. I’ve never figured out if there was a Schenley after whom they were named.
  2. How did the crack occur in Council Rock?
  3. Renner Brewery was once a big deal. I’ve seen the Renner Mansion. But I wonder what Renner Beer tasted like.
  4. How did Dike Beede hang onto his coaching job at Youngstown through so many mediocre seasons? It can’t be because he invented the penalty flag.
  5. I know Butler’s bequest established the Butler and its policy of free admissions. I’d love to know how they have managed to do all that, make expansions and acquire so much great art. Wouldn’t it be great if all museums were able to do the same?
  6. I know Italian food from Youngstown is just the best. I cannot say why. It just is.
  7. Why is it called the Spring Common Bridge and when did Mr. Peanut take up residence? I don’t remember that as a kid.
  8. I wonder what ever happened to the little Baptist church up the street from my grandparents on Cohasset. It was a spiritually significant place for me.
  9. Where does the name DeYor come from? It was just Powers Auditorium when I lived in Youngstown. It looks like the combination of two names–but maybe not.
  10. We had to learn Ohio history in school. Why didn’t we learn Youngstown history?

I could come up with a longer list but I thought I’d leave room for you. What are some of the things about Youngstown you wonder about?

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: Little Prayers for Ordinary Days

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, Katy Bowser Hutson, Flo Paris Oakes, and Tish Harrison Warren, illustrated by Liita Forsyth. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022.

Summary: Twenty-eight prayers, with illustrations, written for children covering the events of the day from getting up to going to bed and all the ordinary and not-so-ordinary things that can happen in a day.

A few years ago, Tish Harrison Warren introduced us, in The Liturgy of the Ordinary to the idea of encountering God and being aware of God’s presence throughout the ordinary events of our days, from getting up, to making our beds, searching for our keys, brushing our teeth, and ending the day. In this children’s book, Warren is joined by Katy Bowser Hutson and Flo Paris Oakes and illustrator Liita Forsyth in a very different looking book that helps children (and parents) develop the same awareness that our days are filled with moments where we may connect with God.

At the beginning, they assure us that:

"God always listens. God always loves you.
You can tell God anything."

This is followed by twenty eight “little prayers” of five to thirteen lines, most of which may be read aloud in twenty seconds or less. They cover these topics:

  • For waking up
  • For looking in a mirror
  • For the start of/for the end of a school day
  • For reading a book/for listening to music
  • For making something/trying something new
  • For rest time
  • For waiting
  • For when I break something/when I have lost something
  • For seeing a friend/leaving a friend
  • For doing chores
  • For when I do what I shouldn’t
  • For being outside
  • For play time
  • For petting an animal/for when I see a bird
  • For meal time/for when I have to eat something I don’t like
  • For taking a bath/for brushing my teeth
  • For an everyday day/a hard day/a really great day
  • For when I look at the stars
  • For bedtime

Some things I really liked include thanking God for our bodies when we look in the mirror and take baths, for all the things that are wondrous about books, and asking God for help when it is hard to wait, or we do things we know we shouldn’t or have to eat food we don’t like. I need the prayers about losing things and breaking things. Then there are the wonders of a pet’s soft fur and the wonderful variety of birds outside our windows. In brushing our teeth, there is a reminder of all the things we do with our mouths. In the prayer about hard days I love the line “Thank you that I don’t have to pretend that things are okay.” And in our days of school shootings and lockdown drills there is the prayer “And please keep everyone safe all day long.”

Here are sample pages showing the delightful prayers and illustrations from bath time:

From publisher’s webpage

What a wonderful way to teach children that God is not just present at church, but in all the ordinary things of our days, even when we are not at our best, or the day has not been. These prayers convey that there is no time or place or occurrence in our days where God is not present. They are prayers that spoke powerfully to me. I am not too old to delight in books or music or stars or the fur of an animal. Even with the effects of age, I still marvel at the gift of my body, especially when I luxuriate in a shower. I still have good and bad day.

What a wonderful gift this is for any young parents! You might want to buy one for them and one for you, particularly if you are a grandparent! There is so much rich theology packed into these little prayers. While you read them in twenty seconds, you will ponder them far longer.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The Last Mapmaker

The Last Mapmaker, Christina Soontornvat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2022.

Summary: Sai, a girl from the Fens, daughter of a conman, manages to find a place with the last mapmaker of Mangkon just as he is enlisted on a voyage of discovery with great possible rewards, risks, and Slakes!

Sai was a twelve year old growing up in the Fens, a slumlike area of Mangkon. Her father, Mud, is a no-account conman in and out of prison. She longs for better things than working in a market. Yet she has no hope of receiving lineals on her thirteenth birthday, the mark of status. One day, she happens by the shop of Paiyoon, the foremost and last mapmaker in the land, just as he is lamenting his need of an assistant. She volunteers and he accepts and she does whatever he says, coming in earlier than he does.

Sai is talented at copying and her father wants her to forge an official letter. She is caught copying one of Paiyoon’s letters and he marvels at her skill. He discovers she can do this with maps as well. Soon after, Paiyoon learns he will be the mapmaker and navigator on an expedition ordered by the Queen to discover the Sunderlands, a continent that exists in myths, surrounded by the stormy and perilous Harbinger Sea, and guarded by the mythical Slake, a kind of sea dragon. He invites Sai along, and she jumps at the chance, giving up her hard-earned savings to be free of Mud.

But the rewards for the crew that discover the continent are good, along with lineals. And Sai gets to work with Paiyoon, further learning his craft, critical because his hands have begun to shake. The ship, the Prosperity, is the flagship of the Navy, captained by an illustrious war hero, Anchalee Sangra. There are two problems on board. One is Grebe, a sailor who had followed her one early morning in the Fens, until she eluded him. She fears she will be recognized, and her lowly origins in this status-conscious society betrayed. The other is Bo, a young orphan boy who had tried to pick her pocket on a port visit but was caught by her, but escaped arrest. He has stowed away and she discovers him and ends up trying to shield him. The two will ultimately team up. She also makes a friend with a striking young woman, Rian, popular among the sailors and ambitious to make the discover. She turns out to be half-sister to the captain.

It turns out the crew is divided, the Captain and Paiyoon and a few others on one side and Rian and most of the crew who want to take the risks to find the Sunderlands. The difference is not fear, as it turns out, but a recognition of the harms of Mangkon’s imperial ambitions. Sai and Bo will be caught up in this division, resulting in a conspiracy and a tumultuous finish. Sai and Paiyoon will be parted with Sai becoming mapmaker and navigator. Along the way are storms, shipwrecks, and the Slake!

This is a great adventure story that also raises thought-provoking questions about loyalties as well as the imperial ambitions of great nations. Is “discovery” really such a good thing for the “discovered”? It is written for an 8 to 12 year old audience, but this adult loved it. Christina Soontornvat first caught my attention when I had the chance to review her All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team. That was non-fiction but introduced me to her story-telling capabilities. She published two Newbery Honor Books in 2021. Her characters are “real,” her plotting makes this a page-turner, and there is an evident “moral compass” in these works in the real choices characters make amid pressures of personal and imperial ambition. I loved it.

________________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Land of Women

Land of Women, Maria Sánchez (Translated by Curtis Bauer). San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2022.

Summary: A rural field veterinarian in Spain gives voice to the lives of rural women and the places they inhabit.

Maria Sánchez is a field veterinarian who works in rural areas of Spain. Her father and grandfather were both veterinarians. She is the first women to be a veterinarian in her family. She recognizes the ways she has broken out of the patriarchal pattern, one followed by her mother and grandmother. One that has silenced the voices and muted the contributions of many women. This memoir seeks to give voice to their stories and their contributions, their hard work, the injustices done them, and their resilience.

The memoir begins with Maria going through the pictures of three grandparents that died, particularly her grandmother Theresa, once a sassy young woman. She realizes the women existed as ghosts, fulfilling the duties of sisters, wives, and mothers, often working hard around home and garden, the keepers of remedies whose stories are untold. Even in her own professions, all the pictures are of men with animals. Where are the women? They are under-represented in the statistics of agriculturalists. They are unheard, unseen. Only with the rise of feminism are they beginning to be celebrated.

Equally unknown is the rural environment where many of them have labored. The towns have been devalued by the greater cities, their stories untold. They become places to flee, even as the life of the land depends upon them. The stories of women and the rural towns are intertwined. For women, it is vital that it be understood that they are not “the daughter of, the sister of, the wife of” who “help.” They are persons with their own work. They help preserve a rural culture in danger of being lost.

Sánchez pays attention to words, collecting them like seeds. The names of the different trees, the plants gathered and stepped upon, the names of the animals, the birds. She believes we cannot love, and will not seek to preserve, what we do not know. To learn the stories, the words is to hear a people saying:

“We are alive and we are here.”

The second part of this work returns to three women in her genealogy, her great grandmother likened to the cork oak, her grandmother Carmen, likened to the garden, and her mother, the olive tree. She gives voice to their stories, the connections between them, connections that began before birth.

This is a beautiful book, weaving the stories of the women, rural lands, and the web of life they all inhabit. Sánchez remarks of how during her veterinary studies she would often be surrounded with works of literature while others would insist they were just into the science. This memoir reminds us that science just helps us understand and care well for what we love, for what has captured our imagination.

While she tells the story of rural women in Spain, one has the sense that this is a story that is transcultural. In so many of these countries, the stories have remained untold, the voices silenced, captured in the image of a woman who left a box of notebooks, all blank. In the mass migration to cities around the world, we are in danger of losing the stories of rural ways, the names of things. Maria Sánchez helps us hear them saying “we are alive and we are here.”

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.